How to Buy a Used Car – NerdWallet

Shopping for a exploited cable car is like going on a prize hunt. There are amazing deals out there, and with the emergence of the Internet as a car shopping tool, you have every find of finding a estimable deal on a car that meets your needs and fits your budget. There are plenty of incentives to buy used alternatively of new : It will save you money on car policy, registration, taxes and depreciation, which is the loss in a cable car ’ randomness value due to wear and tear over clock time. It besides makes feel because cars have never been more authentic. It ’ s not unusual for some vehicles to be trouble-free for well over 100,000 miles. here ’ s an overview of the steps you ’ ll want to take to buy a used car. ( If it is n’t a secondhand car you want after all, check our guide on how to buy a new car. )

Set your budget

There are truly only two ways for you to buy a car : Pay cash or take out a lend. If you ’ re paying cash, budget is pretty bare. But wear ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate spend all your savings. Remember to set aside money for registration and indemnity — and possible future repairs. Most people take out a car loanword so they can protect their savings and buy a more expensive model. It ’ second smart to get preapproved for a car loan because it simplifies the bribe process and puts you in a stronger position at the car franchise. You ’ ll learn belated how preapproval fits into the process. Use an car lend calculator to compute the best loanword for you. Plan to put about 10 % down and finance the car for three years. ideally, the sum of your monthly car expenses shouldn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be more than 20 % of your monthly take home give.

Find your preapproval rates

Choose the right car

nowadays the fun begins — picking your car. Take some time to think about how you plan to use this car. For case, if you have a family, you ’ ll want enough room for everyone plus ample cargo space. If guard is a top precedence, check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for crash tests. Narrow the field by making a list of must-have features. then, search for models with those features using tools such as Car Finder on As you move fore, build a number of three target car models to inquiry in more detail .

Carvana Capital One
Learn More Learn More
Min. credit score

Did not disclose

Min. credit score

Did not disclose

Est. APR

3.90-27.90 %

Est. APR


Loan amount

$ 1,000- $ 100,000

Loan amount

$ 4,000-Max. not disclosed

Check reliability and ownership costs

Every used car is different. Some have been driven more miles and have more wear and tear. But, in general, you want to make sure you ‘re choosing models known for their dependability. Consumer Reports and J.D. Power collect maintenance reports from owners and pace all used cars. A closely relate emergence is the total cost of ownership. Some cars are bum to buy, but will cost a draw in the retentive function because of insurance, sustenance, repairs and depreciation. several automotive websites, such as Kelley Blue Book ‘s Five-Year cost to Own or Consumer Reports ‘ monetary value of Vehicle Ownership, show estimates of these expenses.

Locate good used cars

There are a lot of websites that list used cars, and each web site seems to have its own character. here are four good ones to check out :

  • Craigslist. This web site lists used cars for free. It ’ second best for low-end cars in your area, but be careful about scammers .
  • AutoTrader. here, sellers pay to list their cars. Paid sites are good at keeping out scammers and normally provide a list of mid- and high-end cars. AutoTrader allows you to well filter by class, make, model, monetary value compass and features .
  • AutoList. This site is an collector — it pulls together information from many different areas into one searchable web site .
  • CarMax. This on-line used cable car superstore is a good plaza to look because it has a big inventory and no-haggle price. This means prices are distinctly posted on the cars and negotiating is not allowed. CarMax besides offers an include guarantee and provides financing .

Most use car lots have the cars in their inventory posted on-line. however, if you ’ re person who likes to see and touch the cars you ’ rhenium considering, there are countless used cable car lots across the nation where you can do fair that.

Price the cars

once you find several cars for sale in your area — but before you physically inspect them — look up that cable car model in a price guide such as Kelley Blue Book. You can use the guide to estimate the market value of the actual car you ’ re looking at by assessing its condition based on factors such as historic period, mileage and options. once you have the monetary value, if you want to make a manage, you ’ ll have the information you need to negotiate efficaciously. When you look up a price, include the follow information :

  • year, make and model. The mannequin is sometimes called the “ trim level. ” For case, when looking up a 2015 Nissan Sentra, XE is one of respective spare levels .
  • Options. These are limited features installed when the car was built, such as a navigation system .
  • mileage. distinctive annual mileage on a car is about 12,000 miles. If a car has been driven more or less than this, the price is adjusted accordingly .
  • Condition level. Read the descriptions of the condition levels carefully. The deviation between “ clean ” and “ outstanding, ” for example, could easily be $ 1,500 .

Most pricing guides give you respective different prices. If you ‘re buying the car from a principal, look at the “ Dealer Retail ” price. If your next-door neighbor is the seller, you should look at the “ Private Party ” price. You might besides notice that pricing guides tell you what the car is deserving as a trade-in. Make surely to price your current car if you plan to trade it in at the franchise.

Check the vehicle history report

Before you drive across township to see the car you ’ re concerned in, run a vehicle history report. Using the vehicle designation act ( VIN ), you can get a detail report of the cable car ’ sulfur history from Carfax or AutoCheck. It ’ s a immediate way to know if you should seriously consider buying this car. In some cases, online classifieds will have links to spare fomite history reports. If not, it ’ s worth it to buy one. here is some of the authoritative information you ‘ll learn :

  • Does this car have a clean entitle ? If a car ’ s been in a unplayful accident, fire or flood, and was “ totaled ” by the indemnity company ( declared a total loss ) it still might be driveable. however, the indemnity company will issue a “ salvage entitle ” to alert future buyers. Steer clear of cars with a salvage title because it kills the resale value, and the cable car might still have hidden problems .
  • unplayful accidents are reported to the indemnity party and will probably be on the vehicle history report .
  • fishy car lots might spin the odometer binding to increase its betray price. The vehicle history report can alert you to this scam .
  • It ’ second courteous to think the car you ’ ra matter to in was driven to church by a little old lady for its entire life sentence. If you order the report, you ‘ll know for surely each fourth dimension it changed hands .
  • Some reports show if required maintenance was done on time and where the work was performed.

A quick new world chat will answer lots of questions and spare clock time. First, verify the data you read in the ad. then, hera are some basic questions to ask :

  • Are you the first owner ?
  • Are the service records available ?
  • Do you have the deed and is it clear ? ( A clear title shows there are no liens on the car. )
  • How did you set the asking price ?
  • Is there any significant information that wasn ’ triiodothyronine in the ad ?
  • Can I have the car inspected by a mechanic ?

Test drive the car

up to this point you haven ’ triiodothyronine actually driven the car you ’ ve chosen. nowadays, you ‘ll not only see if you like this model, you ‘ll besides have to decide if this especial car is worth buy. Unless you ‘re a machinist, you can ’ metric ton be expected to inspect a cable car thoroughly. however, you can give the car a reasonably good initial inspection. If it looks good, then you can pop for a full inspection, which will cost you about $ 100. first, start the car. All the warning lights should turn on for a few seconds, then go out. At the very least check for the four most important : engine, petroleum pressure, brakes and airbag. If you do n’t see these lights go on, then off, dig bass. Select a quiz drive route that has a little bit of everything : hills, rough paving, curves and flush a unfold of highway. Drive the car with the radio off — you can test that late. Pay attention to the follow things :

  • visibility : Are there any blind spots ?
  • acceleration and corner : Does the cable car have enough might ? How does the steering feel ?
  • Brakes : Are they responsive and predictable ?
  • Ergonomics : Can you easily reach all the gauges and controls ?
  • mechanical condition : Listen for any unusual noises or vibrations that could indicate careworn suspension parts or tires .

After the examination drive, check the back-seat leg room and cargo capacity. now it ’ second time to blast the audio system and see if your phone connects via Bluetooth.

Inspect the car

If you liked driving the car, and it seems to be in full circumstance, you should still take it to a machinist. Private party sellers are reasonably relaxed about this. Some dealers might give you pushback, claiming they ’ ve already inspected it. Go ahead and insist if you have any doubt about the car ‘s condition. On independent secondhand car lots, you much see a sign in the window saying that the vehicle is “ certified, ” which can mean about anything — and normally means nothing — about the condition or dependability of the car. But on newfangled cable car lots, “ certified ” means the car ‘s in a certified preowned ( CPO ) program, which have become very popular and make use cable car shopping a solid fortune easier. CPO cars are thoroughly inspected and include an strain factory guarantee. You very don ’ t need to take a CPO car to your own machinist.

Negotiate the best price

here ’ s the part that everyone dreads : negotiation. But it doesn ’ t have to be nerve-racking, peculiarly if you ’ ve done your inquiry and have a full theme what the car you want is worth. Compare the seller ’ s asking price to the average market monetary value you determined on the price guides. Chances are, the seller is asking more than the market average. Let ’ s say the seller is asking $ 12,000 and your research has told you the cable car is worth only $ 10,500. Start by pointing out any concerns you have about the car ’ second condition. For example, you can say, “ I like the way the car drives. But it actually needs a new set of tires. And besides that, the book prize is merely $ 10,500. sol I ’ five hundred be bequeath to buy it for $ 10,000. ” now, it ’ s up to the seller to either accept your extend or make a counteroffer. If his counteroffer still seems excessively high, you can either stick to your guns or invoke the time-honored phrase, “ I ’ ll meet you halfway, ” and split the deviation. You can go second and forth until you agree. When you bargain with a car salesperson at a car distribute or franchise, keep in judgment that you ‘re dealing with a professional who knows all the tricks. here are a few tips to use on the cable car distribute :

  • Don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be a monthly requital buyer. If you have a preapproved lend, you ‘re a cash buyer arsenic far as the trader is concerned and you should negotiate on the price of the car, not the size of the monthly payment. This allows you to dodge a common trap set for buyers by salesmen : convincing a buyer to focus on the monthly payment quite than the overall cost of the car .
  • Start low, but in the ballpark. Lowball the seller and they won ’ metric ton treat you as a serious buyer. alternatively, make an offer that is on the first gear side, but even enticing. then, improve your put up slowly, possibly in increments of $ 250 .
  • Don ’ t be trapped in the sales office. Don ’ triiodothyronine let a salesman leave you entirely while he “ goes to talk with his boss. ” alternatively, roam around the showroom or go get a cup of coffee bean. uncontrollable buyers keep salespeople off balance, which can help you in negotiations .
  • Negotiate slowly and repeat the numbers you hear. It ’ second easy to get confused, then go slow or even write down the numbers thrown at you. Make certain you know if you ‘re talking about the “ out-the-door ” price, which includes all taxes and fees, or equitable the sale price of the car .
  • Ask about fees before saying yes to a deal. Some dealers include bogus fees to take back profit they lose in negotiating. Ask for a breakdown of extra fees before you agree to any bargain .
  • always be ready to walk. If you aren ’ metric ton making advance toward a deal, or you don ’ metric ton like the means you ’ ra being treated, just walk out. No goodbyes are necessary .

Close the deal

Before taking possession of the car, you should add it to your insurance policy. then, you only need to pay for the car — normally with cash or a cashier ’ s see. Make sure you get a championship and have the seller sign it correctly. When in doubt, check the state ’ randomness register web site for more data. Most states allow about 10 days to register the car in your list. If you ‘re buying from a secret party, and there is silent a lend on the car, call the lender to find out how to close the deal. If the lender is a bank, offer to meet the seller in a outgrowth office and sign papers there. If you ’ re at a dealer, even if you have a preapproved loan to pay for the car, the franchise ’ s finance coach will probably offer to beat the terms of the loanword. It doesn ’ thyroxine suffer to see if he or she can get a better interest pace. Just make sure all the early terms of the loan are the same. Before the contract is drawn up, the finance coach will besides probable pitch you extra products and services. Buying an unfold guarantee at the correct price can provide peace of mind. But check first gear to see how much guarantee distillery remains on the car. many manufacturers now include “ powertrain ” warranties up to 75,000 miles. This covers all the parts that make the car driveable, such as the engine, transmission and abeyance. once you sign the sales contract, the car is yours. so take your time reviewing the contract and preceptor ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate let yourself be pressured into signing precisely to get it over with. The contract will include the agreed-on sales price and these extra items :

  • State sales tax. This is a share of the cost of the cable car.
  • Documentation tip. It seems crazy but the franchise actually charges you for filling out the contract. This “ doctor fee ” is limited in some states. In others states, such as Florida, some dealerships charge vitamin a much as $ 700 for department of commerce fees .
  • adjustment fees. A dealer has the ability to register the car for you, which is convenient .

Some dealerships might include extra fees, some of which are bogus. It ’ s slippery to know what ’ s legit and what ’ south just included to boost their net income. If the finance director can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate explain a fee in the sign, ask to have it removed .

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Category : Finance

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